I have been following 7 journals at the same time for may be about 10 years now. 4 of them are relatively unpopular and publish may be about 50 papers per year, so they are easy to follow, 1 has 100+ papers so it sometimes requires an effort to read about everything they publish but the other 2 are very popular and publish biweekly full issues with dozens of papers, so it is painful to follow them and I need to look at their webpages to see what is new almost every day. However, I'm interested in a field where I always need to look for papers outside of it and have to browse many journals irregularly to find possibly interesting information. That means I browse through dozens of journals irregularly and have to look through literally thousands of papers. And, oh God, it takes its toll. But the REAL problem is that my requirements only get broader with time, so I now can't just keep on. I think there are really too many journals and too many papers in them to browse through and I can't even manage to read through all the titles of all the papers that could potentially interest me, let alone read the abstracts.

This is why I would like to try to find someone who has similar problems and ask him/her how does s/he manage to solve them, e.g. what does it take to browse the maximum number of journals possible as far as search optimization, number of journals covered and time are concerned? Is it possible to cover a wide field and follow everything it happens in it so you could be aware of the new papers published in dozens of journals or is this simply impossible? I want to know how far can I get and how much time would the effort consume, so, if you could share with me your experience I would be very thankful.

Thank you very much!

closed as primarily opinion-based by user2390246, Coder, David Richerby, Florian D'Souza, Buzz Oct 20 '17 at 23:47

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    People still follow journals? — Is it possible to cover a wide field to follow everything it happens.... — No. It's not possible. – JeffE Oct 20 '17 at 16:53
  • Then, what are the options @JeffE? – Yordan Yordanov Oct 20 '17 at 16:57
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    Realize that nobody knows the entire field, and that's okay, because you don't need to know the entire field to make significant research contributions. Figure out the small subset of the literature that you actually use and care about the most, and only follow that. Google for key words/phrases/authors and chase references/citations when you need something outside that sphere. – JeffE Oct 20 '17 at 17:04
  • I give the maximum I could squeeze out of myself at the cost of virtually every minute free time and even sleep-time I could get out of myself but still it is not enough @JeffE! I can't cover even a fraction of all the literature on all questions that interest me let alone find all the relevant literature in the fields I want to know about. The end result is that I must submit to the fact that I have huge gaps in my knowledge and I can't possibly fill it. But then how could I be sure I know everything there is out there to know about what interests me if I can't even make a – Yordan Yordanov Oct 20 '17 at 17:30
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    @JeffE's point is exactly that you can't know everything that is out there, and you should accept that. You should learn to optimize how much time you spend getting updated on the recent literature, but not to the point that it jeopardizes your research, learning or quality of life. If something is really important to the point that it significantly impacts your research, you will hear about it whether you follow journals and keywords or not. – user63725 Oct 20 '17 at 17:52

Use a content manager and subscribe to the journals' RSS feeds.

I currently follow ~30 journals and a few blogs (this number changes dynamically as I remove some journals and include others) using feedly, which is a RSS reader that is very user-friendly and has apps for both Android and iOS. The software automatically fetches new content from the journals' latest issues and makes them available to me in real time. My daily feed is usually comprised of ~50 new papers every day. I devote 15-30 minutes of every morning to going through it--except on some weekdays when journals like Nature and Science release an entire issue. Going through the feed includes reading all titles, identifying potentially relevant papers, reading their abstract and saving them to my Mendeley library. Some people keep track of new papers through Mendeley alone, though I prefer feedly.

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    I do it similarly, just that instead of using RSS, I rely on email alerts. Those get filtered into a separate folder in my email account, and get checked on a daily basis (usually), for interesting titles. @glauc, is there an advantage of RSS above email alerts? – Mark Oct 20 '17 at 7:30
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    @Mark, I think there is. Feedly and other RSS readers keep the feed well organized in folders/saved items/etc. Second, your journal content will always go to the same place/app. You can do that with e-mails, but it requires some filter engineering that I do not see advantages over using something that has been designed just for that. – user63725 Oct 20 '17 at 10:26
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    I am not sure if these reasons are persuasive, but, as a data point, my ability to track the recent literature increased significantly when I started using content managers (particularly feedly + Mendeley). – user63725 Oct 20 '17 at 10:28
  • @glauc what about possible interesting papers in other journals under relevant keywords? Can this app search entire search engine's database for new papers in any journal under certain keywords combinations or it does only give you the papers in the journals you specify? I have huge problem with tracking down articles because of too broad searches with too many results, so I can't pick up those journals that are most likely to publish new papers in what I'm interested in. Can I make the app show me statistics of where relevant papers appear the most and thus recommend me journals to follow? – Yordan Yordanov Oct 20 '17 at 15:30
  • No, I don't think so, though I have never tried. I use feedly specifically to subscribe to journals, not to specific keywords. Mendeley and ScienceDirect feeds are good in fetching papers based on your library and keywords, and so is Google Scholar with email alerts, though I don't like having my email polluted with publication alerts that I most likely have already seen on feedly. Nonetheless, there are only so many journals where papers in my field are generally published, and I tend to subscribe to most of them. It's unlikely that you will be able to track down absolutely everything. – user63725 Oct 20 '17 at 15:42

Closely linked to the former comment and more an addon: If you register for email alerts, you can most often decide how often do you want to be informed (every article that goes OnlineFirst, just a weekly or monthly email alert or only the final journal issue).

For my work, I differentiate between journals that are really close to my field of study and I should know immediately about any study that is published (and these are the journals in which I want to publish my work), journals that are important (often more general-interest journals), but cover such a wide range of topics that many published articles are not directly relevant to me, and thus, I just get a monthly email alert. Finally there are journals that are on the margin of my research interests (or situated in other disciplines), but I like to keep track of them. For these, I get only the TOC of each published issue.

With this strategy, I can also reduce the amount of time that I devote to skim through the new email alerts. I can't really tell you the exact number of journals that are in each category, but my feeling is that the number is from the first to the last category decreasing.

I hope this helps you?!

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